ELMONT – As the American Triple Crown series comes to conclusion this afternoon on Long Island, the Canadian Triple Crown starts to heat up north of the border.
The $125,000 Plate Trial will be run at Woodbine Racetrack on Sunday afternoon, the major prep race for the Queen’s Plate on July 2. The race has only attracted six horses, but two of the six competed on the Derby trail. Both King and His Court (9-5) and State of Honor (2-1) are the class of this race and will look to step into the Plate favorite role with a victory.
The Trial will be run on Woodbine’s Tapeta surface over 1 1/8-miles. The race is restricted to 3-year-olds foaled in Canada and last produced a Plate winner in 2010, when Big Red Mike won for Fort Erie-based trainer Nick Gonzalez. In fact, Big Red Mike was the third straight Plate winner to advance and win the Queen’s Plate.
Here’s a look at the entries for the Plate Trial Stakes (post position, horse, trainer, jockey, ML odds in parenthesis):
1 – Tiz a Slam (Attfield, Da Silva, 5-2). The son of Tiznow finished second in the Wando, beaten a length by the Trial favorite. He has made the transition from turf to dirt and should improve in his second straight race on the faux dirt after four straight turf efforts. Eurico Rosa Da Silva has been a lethal jockey at Woodbine, winning at a 28 percent clip during the meeting. Attfield will be seeking a tie-breaking ninth Plate in July, and this one looks to be his best chance.
2 – King and His Court (Casse, Boulanger, 9-5). This Court Vision colt abandoned the U.S. Triple Crown trail after a lackluster effort at Turfway Park in the Spiral. Jockey Gary Boulanger is looking for his first Plate Trial win. He won the Plate in 2001. He comes in off an impressive win in the 8 ½-furlong Wando, and has won three straight on Woodbine’s Tapeta.
3 – State of Honor (Casse, Husbands, 2-1). The early pacesetter in the Kentucky Derby returns to face lesser competition in the Plate Trial. Trainer Mark Casse’s first call jockey Patrick Husbands gets the mount on the To Honor and Serve speedster. He ran respectably on the Derby trail before succumbing to the early fractions and finishing 19th in the Run for the Roses. He’s only 1-for-5 on synthetic surfaces, thus the relegation to second choice by Woodbine’s line maker. Check out a feature I wrote on State of Honor before the Derby.
4 – Expedition (Casse, Geroux, 15-1). Casse has half the field in the Trial and recruits talented jock Florent Geroux to ship in to ride the son of Pioneerof the Nile. He’ll need to make a big step up in class on Sunday as his speed figures don’t quite match up with the top horses. He’s a $275K purchase in the 2015 Keeneland September sale. He’ll need to start to paying dividends to make a return on that investment.
5 – Guy Caballero (Phillips, R Hernandez, 10-1). The long shot son of Quality Road runs for talented trainer Catherine Day Phillips. He will return to routing after finishing second in a 7-furlong sprint against a strong allowance field. Lightly raced in his sophomore season, he’s coming in second off the layoff with improving numbers.
6 – Avie’s Mesa (Carroll, Contreras, 6-1). Carroll and Contreras team up again to attempt to win their second straight Plate Trial together. They won last year’s edition with Amis Gizmo and they teamed up to win the Plate with Inglorious in 2011. This Sky Mesa colt’s figures are logical in here and he could be the upset factor as the overlooked horse in the race. Contender.
Post Time Outlook: 1 – King and His Court; 2 – Avie’s Mesa; 3 – State of Honor; 4 – Tiz a Slam
Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.